Spices body urges EU for standard benchmark test

Kochi, March 23 | Updated: Mar 24 2006, 05:30am hrs
The European Spice Association is to meet the authorities of the European Union to have a standardised test method for validation and a reliable analytical methodology for testing of spices for contamination and adulteration. The initiative was taken after the detection of the presence of the chemical dye Sudan red in chilli products from India.

At a recent meeting of the associations technical commission in London, issues relating to methodology and standardisation of testing were discussed, according to Spices Board chairman CJ Jose. There persisted different tolerance levels which was creating confusion. Though it had been generally agreed at a meeting in August 2005 to follow Indian testing standards, nothing concrete had been done in the matter.

In the wake of EU alerts and recall of food products, following the detection of the chemical dye Sudan red in chilli powder and other chilli products, the board had made pre-shipment test mandatory for all export consignment and helped check adulterated material move out.

As per the proposal last year, it was decided that the tolerance levels would be limited to 0.5 ppm (parts per million), tests were being held for the 10 ppb (parts per billion) level which was reason enough for false results. India and Spain, which was into production of paprika powder production, had set the 10 ppb level and India did not allow export of material crossing that level.

Though zero-tolerance levels were ideal, there had to be limit fixed for which there had to be standardised testing methods using the best of equipment. After the last recall of chilli products in the EU in May 2005, the EU Food Standard Authority had got in to preparation of toxicology data and develop analytical testing method for detecting the presence of adulterant para red and extending the method to other similar dyes and having inter-laboratory tests to ascertain the consistency.